James K. Polk


James Knox Polk was the 11th president of the United States from 1845 to 1849.

The Most Underrated American President by Mr. Beat


He previously was speaker of the House of Representatives and governor of Tennessee.

Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States.

James K. Polk: Biography, Facts, Presidency, Accomplishments, Economy, Quotes (2003) by Way Back


A protégé of Andrew Jackson, he was a member of the Democratic Party and an advocate of Jacksonian democracy.

Jacksonian democracy was a 19th-century political philosophy in the United States that expanded suffrage to most white men over the age of 21, and restructured a number of federal institutions.

Andrew Jackson was an American soldier and statesman who served as the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837 and was the founder of the Democratic Party.


Polk is chiefly known for extending the territory of the United States during the Mexican–American War; during his presidency, the United States expanded significantly with the annexation of the Republic of Texas, the Oregon Territory, and the Mexican Cession following the American victory in the Mexican–American War.

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon.

The Mexican–American War, also known as the Mexican War, the U.S.–Mexican War or the Invasion of Mexico, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States from 1846 to 1848.

The Mexican Cession is the region in the modern-day southwestern United States that Mexico ceded to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 after the Mexican–American War.


After building a successful law practice in Tennessee, Polk was elected to the state legislature and then to the United States House of Representatives in 1825, becoming a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson.

The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the Senate, composes the legislature of the United States.


After serving as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he became Speaker in 1835, the only president to have been Speaker.

The Committee on Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives.


Polk left Congress to run for governor; he won in 1839, but lost in 1841 and 1843.


He was a dark horse candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 1844; he entered his party's convention as a potential nominee for vice president, but emerged as a compromise to head the ticket when no presidential candidate could secure the necessary two-thirds majority.

A dark horse is a little known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort, or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed.


In the general election, Polk defeated Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party.

Henry Clay, Sr. was an American lawyer and planter, statesman, and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives.


Polk is considered by many the most effective president of the pre–Civil War era, having met during his four-year term every major domestic and foreign policy goal he had set.


After a negotiation fraught with risk of war, he reached a settlement with the United Kingdom over the disputed Oregon Country, the territory for the most part being divided along the 49th parallel.

The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed region of the Pacific Northwest of North America.


Polk achieved a sweeping victory in the Mexican–American War, which resulted in the cession by Mexico of nearly all the American Southwest.


He secured a substantial reduction of tariff rates with the Walker tariff of 1846.


The same year, he achieved his other major goal, re-establishment of the Independent Treasury system.

The Independent Treasury was the system for managing the money supply of the United States federal government through the U.S. Treasury and its sub-treasuries, independently of the national banking and financial systems.


True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term, Polk left office in 1849 and returned to Tennessee; he died in Nashville, most likely of cholera, three months after leaving the White House.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.


Scholars have ranked Polk favorably for his ability to promote and achieve the major items on his presidential agenda, but he has also been criticized for leading the country into war against Mexico and for exacerbating sectional divides.


A slaveholder for most of his adult life, he owned a plantation in Mississippi and bought slaves while President.


A major legacy of Polk's presidency is territorial expansion, as the United States reached the Pacific coast and became poised to be a world power.

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